Residents evacuate apartment complex due to fire early Sunday

BerkeleyFire_SamEngel
Sam Engel/Staff

Update: This article has been updated to reflect information from building residents.

A single-alarm fire early Sunday morning in North Berkeley prompted the evacuation of an apartment complex.

The fire started in an elevator equipment room at 1550 Walnut Street, which caused smoke to come up the elevator shaft. Berkeley Fire Department responded to the call at 4:28 a.m. and declared it completely under control about 30 minutes later.

Although smoke traveled up all four floors, there were no reported injuries. BFD Deputy Chief Avery Webb said one resident slept through the commotion, but because there was no smoke in the unit, the individual was not injured.

“I woke up to somebody pounding on my door,” said UC Berkeley sophomore Ben Snyder, who lives in the building. “My roommate got to the door first. It was one of our neighbors who told us there was a fire and that we should get out of there.”

Although Snyder didn’t smell the smoke in his room, he and his roommates smelled it as soon as they stepped into the hallway.

The hydraulic oil used to operate the elevator became hot and was involved with the production of smoke, Webb said. When they arrived, firefighters shut off the gas and electricity. PG&E was later called to turn on the systems.

The fire department estimated the damages to be at $10,000. Residents were able to reenter the building about an hour and a half after evacuating.

According to several residents, the posted elevator permit was out of date. Although the building has fire alarms, residents said none were sounding during the fire.

Kimberly Veklerov is a news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KVeklerov.